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What is Outlaw Country Music? A Brief Overview

Outlaw country music has been around for decades and continues to have a strong following. But what exactly is outlaw country music? Many people have heard the term but may not know what it refers to. In this blog post, we aim to give you a brief overview of outlaw country music, its origins, and the artists who helped popularize it.

Outlaw country music emerged as a genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a reaction to the polished, commercial sound of mainstream country music. The term "outlaw" was coined by music journalist Hazel Smith to describe a group of artists who were rebelling against the Nashville sound. These artists, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson, sought to create a rawer, more authentic sound with lyrics that reflected the struggles of working-class Americans. The term "outlaw" referred to their music being outside the mainstream country music establishment.

One of the defining characteristics of outlaw country music is its grittiness and rebellious spirit. Most outlaw country songs deal with themes like hard living, drinking, and heartbreak. The music often blends elements of country, rock, and blues, making it a genre that appeals to a wide range of listeners. Outlaw country music also places a high emphasis on storytelling, with many songs serving as narratives about tough living in the South, love lost, and finding oneself.

Individuality is another hallmark of outlaw country music. Outlaw artists often bucked conventions in their dress, style, and attitude. They cultivated a rugged, unconventional image that set them apart from the clean-cut, polished look of Nashville country artists. Outlaw country music's focus on rugged individuality speaks to the American ideal of self-reliance and nonconformity.

Some of the most influential outlaw country artists of all time include Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. These artists paved the way for a new generation of outlaw country performers like Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, and David Allan Coe. Today, outlaw country music continues its legacy through artists like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton.

Outlaw country music is a genre that continues to evolve and inspire fans today. Its blend of country, rock, and blues, focus on individuality and storytelling, and rebellious spirit set it apart from mainstream country music. The genre's most influential artists, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson, continue to be celebrated for their contribution to music history. At its core, outlaw country music is a celebration of American individualism and the struggles and triumphs of working-class Americans, making it a timeless and unique genre.


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